New campaign to protect South Australian petrol station workers

An increase in robberies and assaults across the petrol station industry in SA has prompted the SDA to launch a new campaign.

The SDA, the state’s largest union, is launching a campaign to protect the safety of workers, including introducing measures such as the installation of safety screens, secondary exits, mandatory night winders when working alone, secure cash machines, and better CCTV and surveillance measures.

Josh Peak, SDA Secretary, said all petrol station workers deserve a safe workplace and that no worker should have to go to work and worry if they’re going to come home safely.

“Incidents of theft and abuse are increasing in petrol stations and more must be done to keep workers safe.

“Secondary exits, mandatory night windows and safety screens should be the standard, but for most petrol station workers, they’d be lucky if their workplace has even one of these.

“The layout and security measures within petrol stations are not fit for purpose and are failing to mitigate the serious risks workers face.”

A report released by the McKell Institute titled Fuel on the Fire: Fixing the Policy Gaps Driving Petrol Station Robberies in SA, details the major safety issues across petrol stations and what must be done to fix this.

It says that as a result of policy gaps, poor workplace design and operating models, petrol stations have become a hotbed for theft and assault.

Dr Gemma Beale, Executive Director SA/NT of The McKell Institute, said the report shows service stations are inherently vulnerable to robbery. 

“They are located close to major roads; they store large quantities of cash and tobacco on site; they are increasingly open all night; and often staffed by a single worker. In terms of their vulnerability to robbery, service stations are the new banks.

“Working in a service station is now a high-risk job, but it shouldn’t be. By the time the police are called, it is too late.”

The McKell Institute has a number of recommendations, including that SafeWork SA establish a Code of Practice for Petrol Station Security and Safety.

“That the Government should develop a state planning policy to ensure consistency across new builds – ensuring secondary exits for workers. And businesses should ensure sites are designed and updated to mitigate against the risk of violence and armed robbery for workers.”

Irrinni Mihalaras, a former OTR worker, said theft and abuse were a regular occurrence and it felt like there was nothing they could really do about this, they just had to cop it.

“A customer threw a metal straw dispenser at me because I wouldn’t give him a refund. It hit me in the face and split my upper lip.

“This incident has mentally scarred me. I felt unsafe at work after this incident, and the constant anxiety contributed to my decision to quit.”

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